20O MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE
the best conception that won. Now it is characteristic that the
best conceptions always depended on the method of suggestion.
The themes were poetic enough in themselves, since they
were always a line taken from a poem. But the ingenuity
lies in the most suggestive interpretation of that poetic line.
A few examples will suffice. In the reign of Huichung, once
the subject for examinations was a line:
Bamboos cover a wine-shop by the bridge.
Many competitors tried to concentrate on the wine-shop as
the centre of the picture. There was one man, however, who
painted only a bridge, a bamboo grove by its side, and hidden
in that grove, only a shop-sign bearing the character "wine,"
but no wine-shop at all. And this picture won because the
wine-shop was hidden in the imagination.
Another subject given was a line from Wei Ingwu's poem:
At the deserted ferry, a boat drifts across by itself.
The poet had already used the method of suggestion in convey-
ing the atmosphere of silence and desolation by showing that
the boat, left alone, drifted across by the force of the current,
but the painter carried the method of suggestion further. The
winning picture was one which conveyed this feeling of silence
and desolation by drawing a bird resting on the boat, and
another one about to perch on it. The presence of the birds
near the boat suggests that the boat was deserted and no
human beings were about.
There was another painting, which was intended to portray
the atmosphere of luxury in the rich man's mansion. A modern
painter, sick of painting reality, would also try to suggest.
But he would probably paint a jumble of a saxophone that
magically penetrates through a champagne glass that rests on
a woman's breast that hides underneath three-quarters of a
motor-car wheel that grazes over the funnels of a Gunard liner,
etc,, etc. The Chinese impressionist painted, however, only
a rich mansion in the background, with its gate standing half-
open and a maid peeping out and pouring out a basketful of